Saint-Raphael aim to end the French curseArticle
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SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: SC Magdeburg hope to profit from the home advantage and reach their first final since 2007, but Saint-Raphael have strong motivation of their own.
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Saint-Raphael aim to end the French curse

Since the implementation of the merged EHF Cup, the hosts have made it to the final four out of five times – the only exception was Füchse Berlin in 2014. Now, SC Magdeburg hope to extend this series in their sold-out fortress, GETEC Arena.

Their semi-final opponents, Saint-Raphael Var Handball, are out to prove the strength of the French league and take their first ever EHF Cup Finals win.

• No French team has ever won the EHF Cup, whether in the old or new format
• The only duel between Magdeburg and Saint-Raphael was the 3/4 placement match at the EHF Cup Finals 2017, won by SCM after a penalty shoot-out
• Magdeburg’s last defeat in an EHF Cup home match occurred in the 2011/12 semi-finals against a French team: 25:30 against Dunkerque, followed by 17 victories and one draw

Saint-Raphael Var Handball (FRA) vs SC Magdeburg (GER)
Saturday 19 May, 14:15 local time, live on

The first semi-final sees a rematch of last year’s EHF Cup Finals 3/4 placement game in Göppingen, which ended with a true showdown, as Magdeburg needed a penalty shootout to take third place.

Now SCM, who won the EHF Cup in the old format in 1999, 2001 and 2007, are the favourites to reach their first international final in 11 years and make history exactly 40 years after their first international trophy – the Champions’ Cup (forerunner of the EHF Champions League).

“We want to profit from the home advantage and having the fans behind us. I guess our chances to first make it to the final and then to take the trophy are a bit higher than for the rest of the teams,” says SCM coach Bennet Wiegert, who was a player in Magdeburg’s historic squad, which won the EHF Champions League in 2002.  

As the hosts of the Ottostadt Magdeburg EHF Cup Finals, group winners SCM skipped the quarter-finals. Saint-Raphael were runners-up in the same group as Füchse Berlin and entered the EHF Cup Finals by way of an impressive 37:23 victory in the first-leg quarter-final against Fraikin Granollers – the biggest margin in the EHF Cup season since the start of the group phase.

In the season’s highest-scoring encounter in the return leg, Granollers almost managed a significant upset, but a 40:30 victory on home ground was not enough to stop the French side on their way to Magdeburg.

Saint-Raphael have already proven that they can win on German ground this season, by taking the points from Füchse in the group phase opener to avenge the demoralising 24:35 semi-final defeat one year ago.

“At Magdeburg, we want to show that we can play much better than we did last year in Göppingen,” says Saint-Raphael coach Joel da Silva, for whom the roles for the first semi-final are clearly marked: “Everybody expects Magdeburg to win, they are under pressure, they are at home – but we do not have anything to lose, which might be a psychological advantage.”

In the history of the EHF Cup, including the former Cup Winners’ Cup, no French team ever won the trophy – though three French sides have been finalists since the new model was implemented. Nantes lost the finals on home ground twice against German sides (2013 versus Rhein-Neckar Löwen and 2016 to Göppingen), and Montpellier lost in Berlin against Pick Szeged. Hungarian side Szeged are the only non-German team to have raised the trophy in the new format of the competition.

If Magdeburg win this semi-final clash, it would mean the third all-German final since 2015, after Berlin versus Hamburg (2015) and Göppingen versus Berlin (2017).

SC Magdeburg have already lost one semi-final this year, in the German Cup against Rhein-Neckar Löwen. In the Bundesliga match against the same opponents some days later, left wing Lukas Mertens tore his ACL, to be out for at least half a year.

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cg